One of the featured speakers on opening night of the just-concluded GOP convention was Antonio Sabato Jr., a soap opera actor and underwear model. “President Obama is absolutely a Muslim,” he said shamelessly. “I don’t believe the guy follows the Jesus that I love. Obama, I mean, that’s not a Christian name, is it?” Good grief! And it only got worse.
Later, Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, gave her keynote speech and did admirably. That is, except for an entire passage, some 60 words, that was identical to Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008! Some said Melania “stole the show.” It appears that wasn’t all she stole.
You’d think if the Trump campaign was going to plagiarize, it wouldn’t be from a Democrat. Surely Laura Bush said something worth stealing. Ironically, earlier in the night, right-wing nut-job Congressman Steve King, right out of the KKK playbook, said he couldn’t think of any great parts of civilization created by people of color. (What rock do these people climb out from?) Then again, maybe the plagiarism is progress. After all, Melania’s speech was essentially a white woman stealing from a black woman.
A video of Michelle’s original speech and Melania’s version received over 15 million hits on the Internet. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s New York Daily News headline showed a photo of a smiling Donald and Melania with the headline, “Thank you, Mrs. Obama.”
For his part, Trump tweeted that the speech was “incredible.” In some sense, I suppose it was. Frankly, I’m still aghast from Trump’s typically rambling introduction last week of his VP candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. For the first 28 minutes all Donald talked about was how great he was and didn’t even mention Pence’s name. Talk about an insatiable ego.
In my humble opinion, Trump is a soulless, sociopathic, thin-skinned, self-aggrandizing narcissist bully. He’s also a serial liar, xenophobe, racist, misogynist and a birther. (But how do I really feel?)
But before I get into a Trump Funk, let’s go from the depressing, Don the Con in Cleveland, to the inspiring, a new type of theater in Santa Monica. (How’s that for a sudden segue?)
Tony Award-winning actor, Paul Sand, a Santa Monica resident for most of his life, is pursuing a dream with his newly formed Santa Monica Public Theatre. He and his ensemble are in the current production of his highly acclaimed “Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel.” It’s a vivid theatrical revue infused with Weimar-era collaborations of the famed composer Kurt Weill and lyricist/playwright Bertolt Brecht. It’s running at Santa Monica’s only city-owned theater, the charming and historic Miles Memorial Playhouse, which is located in Reed Park and was built in 1929!
In a way it’s fitting that “Cuttlefish,” a haunting tale about murder, revenge and broken hearts, is being staged in a waterfront city like ours. During their “Hollywood period,” Weill and Brecht lived in Santa Monica and reportedly spent time at the pier, far edgier then than now. (No disrespect to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., but “edgy” it’s not.) Some speculate that Weill and Brecht, perhaps on a gloomy, foggy night, drew inspiration from the pier’s foreboding atmosphere.
And it’s also fitting that Sand is the artistic director of Santa Monica Public Theatre as his connection here precedes his birth. (His parents met at a dance contest on the pier.) In fact, Paul’s first steps as a baby were also taken on the pier. As a teenager he lived above the carousel and, to this day, he can see the pier from the apartment he has lived in for decades.
Paul’s impressive career in theater, TV and movies includes working for and studying under such theatrical giants as Judy Garland and Marcel Marceau. He’s hoping word of mouth for “Cuttlefish” will lead to an extended run and enable many innovative future projects for Santa Monica Public Theatre, a nonprofit. To that end, the reviews have been downright glowing.
The L.A. Times wrote, “‘Cuttlefish Hotel’ carves a weirdly effective niche in a dark-tinged program of deathless songs taking environmental theater to a highly specialized place. It’s unlike anything else afloat on Southland stages.”
The spellbinding evening begins and ends with Mack the Knife sung with jarring, in-your-face style by Shay Astar. That the silent knife of Macheath (Sand) will find its mark is never in question but the “when” leaves you on the edge of your seat.
The sound design and art direction are excellent and all four performers — Sand, Astar, Megan Rippey and Sol Mason — are superb. And the outstanding four-piece piano-and-strings combo, Michael Roth, Amy White, Hope Easton and Tamboura Baptiste, deliver remarkable fusion and power in the 12 numbers that transport you in time and place.
In closing, if you enjoyed the GOP convention, why not go see “Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel” to celebrate? Or, if the convention left a horrible taste, the hauntingly compelling “Cuttlefish” will definitely take your mind elsewhere. As for Antonio Sabato Jr. and his criticisms of others’ religious beliefs, he should just stick to selling underwear.
Miles Memorial Playhouse is at 1130 Lincoln Blvd. Order tickets online at www.Eventbrite.com by typing “Kurt Weill” in the search box, email SantaMonicaPublicTheatre@gmail.com or call (424) 372-7678.
Photo (by Agi Magyari): Megan Rippey, Sol Mason, Paul Sand and Shay Astar in “Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel” at the Miles Playhouse.
Jack Neworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.